It’s a transitional year for the Brooklyn Nets, and there’s no getting around it.
Prominent veterans such as Deron Williams and Kevin Garnett are gone, and young guns like Mason Plumlee and Mirza Teletovic are out the door as well. Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez are the remaining star figures, surrounded by a handful of rookies and incoming role players.
The roster is getting younger, and that infusion of youth includes a quintet of non-guaranteed (or partially-guaranteed) signees who are looking to earn one of the final couple roster spots. That group is comprised of Markel Brown, Willie Reed, Quincy Miller, Donald Sloan and Ryan Boatright.
There are currently 12 rosters spots accounted for at this stage, so only three of those five competitors will likely crack the opening day 15-man roster. Who has the best chance to emerge and claim a spot? We ranked them in order of their chances to make the roster.
5. Quincy Miller, 6’9″ F (4th Year, Baylor)
Fourth-year forward Quincy Miller lands last because he’s the biggest risk in the group.
He (and a trade exception) were acquired by Brooklyn in a midsummer trade from the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Steve Blake. Miller’s shown glimpses of promise and versatility to go along with tremendous length, and he bulked up a bit this summer. But strong performances have been few and far between during his three-year career.
This fall, he joins his fourth club in four years, and he needs to thoroughly impress the Nets’ brass and coaches in order to stick. Net Income of Nets Daily explains:
The Nets reportedly considered waiving Miller—he had a $50,000 guarantee due two days after the trade—but decided to pay him and give him a chance in training camp. He won’t have an easy time making the team, but his chances are better at power forward than small forward…The Nets have said little to nothing about him. In other words, expectations are low.
It’s possible for him to crack the roster, but he must exhibit irresistible versatility and leapfrog a couple challengers in the process.
4. Ryan Boatright, 5’11” PG (Rookie, Connecticut)
A shifty, explosive weapon at the college level, UConn star Ryan Boatright offers an aggressive playing style and noticeable shooting potential. He made some noise during Summer League, posting three 20-plus point games and notching seven multi-triple efforts.
But despite his 14 points per game and 44 percent three-point shooting in July, the 5’11” playmaker won’t find a gift-wrapped roster spot.
The primary reason he’s on the bubble is because the Nets already have three point guards with more NBA experience than him. If Boatright was a 6’4″ slasher who could defend multiple positions, then he’d have a great chance to outplay Donald Sloan and Shane Larkin. Unfortunately Boatright’s a 5’11” quarterback who hasn’t yet separated himself from the pack.
For now, he sits fourth on Brooklyn’s floor general depth chart. If Boatright’s unable to outshine one of the other playmakers, he won’t be on the opening-day roster.
3. Markel Brown, 6’3″ SG (2nd Year, Oklahoma State)
After a relatively uninspiring rookie campaign, 6’3″ high-flyer Markel Brown looks to earn a spot in the rotation among a crowded group of middle-tier wings.
The presence of Johnson, Bojan Bogdanovic, Sergey Karasev and Wayne Ellington will make it tough for Brown to earn a substantial role, but he’ll at least land on the roster. In addition to his end-to-end energy and strong shooting during Summer League, Brown provided leadership for the Nets’ summer squad. Lionel Hollins took notice, according to Kathryn Pryzbyla of Nets.com:
“…The real standout during the Nets’ 2015 NBA Summer League was Markel Brown. No stranger to the grind, Brown stepped up as a leader on this squad in Orlando and Las Vegas and it didn’t go overlooked. ‘This year he came out, made an impact on the game, made shots and made plays,’ Hollins said. ‘That’s how you get noticed, by coming out and helping your team win…It’s all a part of the process and I think he did well in this first part.'”
Brown should snag the last roster spot among the non-guaranteed players, but he could potentially become much more than a benchwarmer. If he improves his defensive fundamentals and cultivates his shot-creating skills, Brown could turn heads in the back end of the rotation.
2. Donald Sloan, 6’3″ PG (5th Year, Texas A&M)
The Nets signed Donald Sloan to a partially guaranteed deal in August to give the team point-guard insurance.
He’s not a 100 percent lock to make the cut, but we’re projecting him to safely secure a spot due to experience and facilitating skills. Even though Sloan’s efficiency has wavered during his four-year career, he’s shown the ability to create offense as a slasher and passer. Last season, he averaged 6.2 assists per 36 minutes as a fill-in quarterback for the Indiana Pacers:
The Nets are hoping he does more than just earn a roster spot. Sloan has a great chance to compete with and outplay Shane Larkin, thereby becoming the Nets’ backup point guard.
Aside from Jarrett Jack, Sloan has the most NBA experience of Brooklyn’s remaining facilitators. His ability to distribute the rock to Lopez, Johnson and Co. could result in substantial minutes.
1. Willie Reed, 6’10” PF/C (2nd Year, St. Louis)
Willie Reed doesn’t top our list because he’s the best player. He’s most likely to trot out on opening day because he offers something the other non-guaranteed ballers don’t possess (and something the Nets desperately need): interior defense and rebounding.
During his 2015 Orlando Summer League stint with the Miami Heat, the Nets liked what they saw and quickly scooped Reed up. After bouncing around the D-League and playing in the Dominican Republic last year, he has a terrific opportunity to not only make his official NBA debut, but to stick in the league:
Reed’s not a dynamic offensive option, but he could bolster Brooklyn’s bench in the frontcourt with relentless board-getting and defensive energy. None of the Nets big men are standout stoppers, so he has a prime chance to carve out a special role on this club.
And there you have our predictions: the top three non-guaranteed competitors (Brown, Sloan and Reed) will make the roster, with Miller and Boatright on the outside looking in. It doesn’t mean Miller and Boatright are doomed from ever playing for Brooklyn, but the first three have the edge to play on opening night.